KNOXVILLE (WATE) - After an early spike in flu cases, the numbers are only getting worse.
Health officials say they guessed right with this year's vaccine. The flu shot should prevent most people from getting sick. Unfortunately, many skipped out on the vaccine.
The illness is widespread through 41 states, including Tennessee.
Barbara Mason says she usually doesn't get the flu, but lately she's been feeling achy, tired, and has the chills.
Mason decided Monday afternoon to see a doctor. She's concerned about how many people she's seen come down with the flu.
"It's getting stronger and stronger, it's seems like every year. It concerns me," Mason said.
"This year we've seen tons of cases in December, which is unusual," said Dr. David Petty, an urgent care doctor at the Farragut Walk-in Clinic.
Doctors and health officials are reporting more cases of Influenza and flu-like illnesses in Knox County.
The health department reports it's seen more than twice the amount of influenza cases than this time last year.
"We have been hearing stories of lots of visits to primary care physicians, walk-in clinics and influenza type illness," said Connie Cromley, a nurse epidemiologist with the Knox County Health Department.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this year's vaccine targets three strains, two strains of Influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and one of Influenza B.
The most common is the H3N2 strain. The CDC says the vaccine is about 60 to 70 percent effective for healthy individuals and even less effective for elderly people or people with low immune systems.
Doctors like David Petty say they are seeing a number of patients with flu-like symptoms. Some of those patients had already received the vaccination.
"This year, we have seen people with flu that have both the nasal and the injectable vaccine," Petty said.
Health officials say vaccines will still minimize the virus's effect on the body.
Knox County children return back to school from winter break on Tuesday. For eight years, the county has given free vaccines to students.
"That's been a great boom for us to keep kids in school, keep the illness at a minimum. We haven't had to close Knox County Schools several years due to influenza," Cromley said.
The health department says it's not too late to receive a vaccine.
The department has plenty available and free vaccines are available for children.
Health officials say the flu season is just the beginning. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February, according to the CDC.